Today people will dress in green, maybe wear a shamrock or two, and whistle an Irish Jig. But I wonder, how many of those people know what St. Patrick’s day is all about? How many people know that it is commemorating something more than green shamrocks and being Irish? How many people know who St. Patrick’s day is commemorating. Which reminds me, who is St. Patrick anyways?
St. Patrick lived somewhere around 387 – 461 AD. He was born in Britain but spent most his life in Ireland. St. Patrick was a hero of the faith. Being strong Christians, his parents raised him in the faith and from a young age he had incredible faith. At fifteen, he was carried away to Ireland as a slave. Just before his capture, he fell from a high cliff, a fall which might have killed him. He realized that God, in His infinite mercy, saved him for some purpose. On that day, he prayed, “My life belongs to you, dear Lord, I will dedicate it to You and forever do Your will. But please reveal to me what Your will is.”
Although Patrick’s life seemed to have taken a terrible turn, God used this time to prepare Patrick for the mission prepared for Him. God did not leave Patrick alone in Ireland. An older man was captured at the same time as Patrick. He, the older man, knew the Irish language and helped Patrick stay strong in the Lord, learn the language and ways of Ireland.
When Patrick was twenty-one, God opened the door and he escaped back to Britain. For the next several years, Patrick studied the Bible and became a Bishop. He went back to Ireland to preach the Gospel. God was with Patrick from the first day he arrived. When he landed the king sent Irish wolfhounds to kill him. Because of his previous experiences as a shepherd, Patrick gave the dogs commands and made friends with them. This opened the king to hearing the Gospel and he became a Christian.
St. Patrick traveled throughout much of Ireland preaching and working miracles. When one of the most powerful kings in Ireland challenged him to a contest of the gods, he readily excepted the challenge. Before the contest was started however, the king tried to poison Patrick’s drink. Patrick blessed the cup and drank it all, except a small frozen drop that contained the poison.
The contest started with the Druid (the representative of the pagan gods of Ireland) calling in snow. However, he could not get rid of the snow. Patrick made a cross with his fingers and the snow melted instantly. The Druid then called for darkness. He could not get rid of that either. Patrick again made a cross and it vanished. Furious, the Druid now challenged Patrick to send one of his disciples into a little two room house. The Druid would be locked in one room and St. Patrick’s disciple would be locked in the other. The house would be set on fire. Whoever came out alive served the more powerful God. One of St. Patrick’s disciples immediately volunteered and the final showdown commenced. Patrick’s disciple was the one left living. That opened the door for Patrick to preach in the area.
Traveling to another part of Ireland, Patrick was told many of the people there would not convert until a big stone idol was destroyed. Patrick went to the place where that idol stood and called upon the power of the Lord Jesus to cause the idol to topple and be smashed into bits. As he said this, he struck the idol with his staff and the huge idol fell and shattered into millions of bits. When the people of Ireland heard about this many heard Patrick’s message and came to Christ.
And what about the shamrock? Although they now have many different things connected with them, they originally were connected with the day because Patrick used them to explain the trinity. A shamrock has three leaves, but is still one shamrock, just as God has three representations but is one God.
Although no one is absolutely certain that these stories are true, they are based on facts and legends. These stories only begin to tell of Patrick’s life and faith. He was an incredible man, afraid of nothing and a fighter for the Lord! If you want to know more about him, I would recommend the Landmark book titled: The Life of Saint Patrick by Quentin Reynolds.
This is who St. Patrick’s day commemorates. He is a hero to look up to. The world has commercialized it because they do not know what it is really about and probably do not want to know. We should make sure that the real purpose of this day (to honor St. Patrick) is not lost by all the commercialization the world puts on this day.
Remember St. Patrick and tell others about his life and the Lord he served.